City maintenance code would hurt homeowners
I have read the proposed building maintenance code and I am seriously concerned about it. The way it is written is so open ended and loosely generalized that the code police could very soon be knocking on your front door.
It is a complete myth that homeowners will not be affected by the new law. The preamble of this International law states “In order to promote public education and public safety, equal justice for all, a better informed citizenry, the rule of law, world trade and world peace, this legal document is hereby made available on a noncommercial basis, as it is the right of all humans to know and speak the laws that govern them.” How does this law promote world peace? Where is the “equal justice, world trade or freedom” in this law? It was passed under the auspices of falling glass, protecting children, saving lives, protecting tenants, promoting health, and protecting us from slumlords.
But it goes way beyond that. If glass falls out of a building then the current laws need to be enforced and not make new ones. Approximately 15% of our dwellings are owned by landlords (including large complexes like Jaycee Estates etc). This remaining 85% is owned by taxpaying, mortgage paying hard working citizens that don’t need more stress in their lives by their government telling them to fix up their home because it doesn’t meet “international standards.”
The 2010 census says that there are 6,519 housing units in Marietta. That means there are close to 5,500 residences or “dwelling units,” which, if you’re a homeowner includes your home, inside and outside. If you don’t fix the problem in your home or apartment building, this law states that you will be fined. They have the right to fine you up to a total of $875. If you are unable to make the repairs after being fined, they will have a contractor fix your property (and you have no say in the price) then subsequently place a lien on your property for the total cost thereof (section 106.3). What if a person doesn’t have the money to fix the problem? What if they are elderly or on a fixed income? Then what?
According to 106.3, if you don’t fix your property then you are automatically deemed guilty and they can remove you from your dwelling. They only need probable cause that the inside of your house is in violation and they enter if you let them. If you don’t let them in then they will get a warrant to inspect the inside of your house for code violations. The code allows them to inspect, enforce and hold you guilty if they want to. There is absolutely nowhere in this code that specifically calls out the fact that it covers only “rental units”. It states only “dwelling unit”, “premises”, “structure”. Section 305 says that the interior of your dwelling “should be in good repair and in a sanitary condition.” Section 304.5 says you are in violation if your foundation is cracked and that it must be coated to prevent deterioration. Section 302.5 explains that you are to have no noxious weeds (poison ivy) on your property and if you don’t remove them they will pay someone to remove it and then lien your property for the expense. Do you have any brick joints that need tucked? Section 304.1.1 says you are in violation if you do. Section 304.14 states that you must have a screen on every opening that is used for ventilation (every window) “with approved tightly fitting screens of minimum 16 mesh per inch (16 mesh per 25 mm), and every screen door used for insect control shall have a self-closing device in good working condition.” Do you have some old windows that just need to be painted and re-glazed (not falling out)? Section 304.13.1 says your glazing is in violation if it has “cracks or holes”. Section 305.3 says that your INTERIOR walls, windows, doors and peeling paint shall be repaired, removed or covered. Cracked or loose plaster, decayed wood and other defective surface conditions shall be corrected. 304.2 says you cannot have any oxidization stains (rust) on your exterior surfaces and all surfaces with rust or corrosion shall be stabilized and coated. 304.13.2 says all of your windows shall be easily open able. 305.4 says all of your walking surfaces shall be maintained in ‘good repair’. Section 305.6 reads that your doors can not stick when trying to open them. Also, it is in violation if there is deterioration of your wood, steel, and/or masonry, most homes over 50 years old have decay somewhere. Section 404.3 states that you must have headroom in your basement that is at least 7′ clear below all ducts, pipes, etc. If you don’t, you are in violation of the law. Section 604.3 explains that you are in violation of the law if you have “insufficient receptacles.” Usually Historic Buildings are exempt from certain specific codes, but not this one. Section 102.6 says if it is judged unsafe by the code official then it is not exempt. This law is so broad and rife with generalities that is very subjective at best and could very possibly be interpreted differently by each official. A lot of the homes in our town are over 100 years old and each of those homes could have dozens of violations according to this new law; all they have to do is inspect you. Read the law yourself and contact your councilperson to make sure this law never passes. They just need to continue enforcing the existing commercial laws and leave our homes alone. And we also do not need an inspector whose existence is tied to the fines he or she levies.
Bryan Waller lives in Marietta.